You can't love yourself and want to lose weight (at the same time)
If you are reading this and find the mention of weight loss, food, calories, body image, and weight gain triggering or distressing - Please, don't read this. Put yourself and your mental wellbeing first. I also want to add that when I speak about weight-loss I'm referring to losing weight healthily and sustainably.
“You can’t be body positive and want to lose weight” – An unwritten rule within the body positive movement (or so, this is the way it often appears).
Talking about weight-loss is difficult. It’s one of those subjects that you must approach with caution and care for it can be triggering for the masses. For the most part, weight loss is hugely dictated by “diet culture” that inhabits many toxic traits: Diet pills, extremely low-calorie diets, detox teas, skinny shakes, waist trainers; the list goes on. However, when I’m referring to weight loss I am referring to losing weight safely and sustainably - I believe that if you want to lose weight you should feel free to do so without judgment (“Oh, she wants to lose weight? She must be so insecure.”) and without fear of having your “body-positive” title stripped away. In addition to this, you're well within your right to not want to lose weight – Some people are happy and confident in a size eight, some are not. Others are happy and confident at a size sixteen, others are not. People choose to lose weight whilst others choose to gain weight - Either is okay, it's your journey.
Photo by Caroline Veronez on Unsplash
BODY POSITIVITY, IS IT TOXIC?
No - The body-positive movement has done SO many amazing things for overweight, disabled, queer gendered, and people of race. However, as “body positivity” has grown in force and has become both monetized by brands and widely talked about among the general population, it’s created a toxic paradigm. Unknowingly, unwritten rules have been created within this movement, that you must follow if you want to be body positive - If you're body positive, you must be happy in the body that you're in and you're not allowed to want to change the way that you look.
The world that we live in gives us SO many conflicting messages about these journeys of ours. In one breath we are told that we must be “body positive” in the other, we are told we must have flat stomachs that are lined with abs. It’s both confusing and debilitating, who we are is constantly dictated by the latest trends on social media. For as long as I can remember, society has glorified “slimness”, constantly telling us to be the smallest version of ourselves but now, we're told to feel liberated when we see our rolls, unveil our bloated stomachs, and wholeheartedly accept weight gain. Which do we choose? Which is the right path to take? It's confusing and can place so much pressure on our thought patterns and behaviors. It feels as though we must pick one, to eat or to not eat, to work out or not work out, to lose weight or to gain weight. It’s as though we can’t mix and match and find the combination that works for us and our bodies.
I used to think I had to pick one or the other, I either had to enjoy all of the food or massively restrict and I either had to work out to have abs or not work out at all. I’m still learning and growing and figuring out what works for me and what makes me the happiest – I have both good days and bad days. I want to work out and to be toned and lean but, I also love sweet snacks and fluffy cakes most of all though, I want to love myself and be able to make changes without questioning my worth.
At the moment, body positivity (to me) means:
- Fueling my body with foods that are good for my physical health, mental health, and my heart <3
- Learning to accept my body and cherish it on the days that loving it seems like miles away
- Exercising my body to make it strong and to improve my cardiovascular health
- Resting it to allow it to relax and recover
- Most importantly, not passing any judgments on it (for bloating, gaining weight, being marked, cellulite, etc…)
- My body positivity extends to every other person's body, I will love and accept your body in whatever form it is and pass no judgement on what body positivity represents for you, as an individual
Photo by Kim Carpenter on Unsplash
CAN YOU LOVE YOURSELF AND WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT?
In my opinion – YES.
I truly believe that you can love yourself whilst being body positive and also want to lose weight. My reasoning for this is because our value and our worth isn’t dependent on the way we look, the number on the scale, or the size of our waists.
When I think of self-love, I think of loving myself. Loving myself for being able to make a good coffee and pick out the best snacks. Loving myself for trying to find the positive in every situation and accepting the negatives. Loving myself for the books I read and the words that I journal. Loving myself, for my inner self – My personality, my quirks, my flaws, my dreams, hopes, and fears. I’m not going to allow the way my body looks to impact my self worth, ever (it’s a journey, some days it’s easier said than done). Loving my body means not setting an alarm for a few days because I’m feeling extra tired. It means feeding it extra food when I’m feeling particularly hungry (instead of restricting it). Allowing it to walk and be active, letting it feel fresh air kissing its skin. Lifting weights to help it feel strong and knowing when to stop and let it rest. The more I think about it, the more I realise just how separate our worth is from our bodies and that you can love yourself, want to lose weight, and be body positive all at the same time.
You can both love yourself whilst also coming to realize that there are changes that you want to make to your outward appearance – This is okay.
Imagine that you’ve lived in the same house for your whole life and when you’re an “adult” your parents move out and put the house in your name (what a dream). You love this house, it’s your childhood home – It sat with you when your heart broke for the first time, waved you off when you went to uni and smiled as you returned. It’s been there through the highs and the lows and even though you wholeheartedly love it, you decide that you want to decorate it a little bit; perhaps you want to paint all of the rooms sunset pink and fill them with house plants, maybe you get rid of the conservatory or transform the garage into an office. Just because you’re making changes to the house doesn’t mean that you don’t love it. In fact, you love this house so much that you’re going to treat it with care and love whilst you change it. You’re going to treat it with patience and grace when the changes take a little longer than expected. You don’t decide to set fire to the conservatory because it’s the quickest way to get rid of it, you’re going to hire someone to do it properly and carefully. Yes, it is going to take longer BUT this is the most healthy and sustainable way to make changes to this house that you love.
This photo is by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash
To conclude, I think if you're trying to lose weight because you feel like you have to, you shouldn’t do it. If you like the way your body looks and feel healthy in it, – I think you should continue to live your life, loving yourself and being happy. However, if you want to lose weight and feel that it could add to your happiness and health - Go for it. Providing that you're not losing weight in a harmful way or putting yourself under any harm when you get to your "goal weight". If you don't love yourself in the process of losing weight, perhaps make a point to actively love yourself before setting off on a weight loss journey (or at least in the process of it).
Remember that everyone has a different idea of health and that it looks different on everybody. These personal journeys of ours are not linear. No one has ever lived in your body but you and therefore, only you know what you want and what life you'd like to lead.